Q & A with Michelle Kendall-Lawrie

Wild and Free: Artist Reception by Michelle Kendall-Lawrie

Currently non-existent Panama Red cafe in Concord has always been a place for local artists and musicians to show their skills. On the day of Michelle’s show though, the place was liver that ever: many visitors were drawn to the beautifully presented artwork. Among them were people from different parts of the Bay area: artist’s friends, family members, coworkers, and other art appreciators.

Michelle grew up in a Mt. Shasta area in California and, as she declares herself, “had the ability to run wild in the woods and feel free”. Anyone could experience that “wild and free” environment in most of the displayed works: paintings, collages and even frames of presented works were filled with warm and freshness of an enchanted forest. Some of the visitors were taking pictures; others stood close, trying to remember the details. After the greetings exchanged, I had a chance to talk to Michelle about the show and her life as an artist. She was very friendly and happily answered all my “tricky” questions.

–Michelle, looks like many people are truly impressed with what they see, and it would be interesting to know, what kind of critique do your creations get from your family/friends?

  • I am very blessed to have an amazing support from family and friends. When it comes to critiques, I have received positive feedback on the collage work. Also, my painting style has changed so much through the years!

–As of now, how would you characterize your artistic style? 

  • Well, I would describe it as a literary, accessible, with a dash of folk.

–If you could only use three words to describe you style, what would they be?

  • Sleight of hand

–Wonderful, and how did you discover your passion for art? Was there a family member who inspired you to start your first project?

  • Jeez, I have always loved art and have always been around it. There are many artists in my family and my environment. My mom has always had a love for art and history and my dad has always painted or worked in metal. It just became second nature. –

-They say, the personality is formed in first three years of life. Do you recall who was your childhood hero/heroine? (It could be a real life person, movie/book character, etc)

  • I don’t think I really had heroes at that time but if I had to choose characters that I loved and wanted to be, it would be either Pippi Longstocking or Wendy Darling, which is funny because those two are polar opposites!

– That’s the best part, right? As of today, what’s your “hero” material to work with? Do you use mostly same materials throughout your career or do you find something new/experiment with terra incognita from time to time?

  • The only reoccurring theme in my work is using recycled materials. Maybe I’m deathly afraid of blank canvas, but I have always been drawn to materials with a bit of history.  I will either try to incorporate the material’s original history into the theme of the work or I will just let the beauty of it enhance with what I am getting across. Now that I am older I always have a solid supply of materials to work with, because there is nothing worse than wanting to create something and being out of paint. For the last couple of years my favorite material has been books.

-Do you remember your longest project and how many hours/days it took you to accomplish it?

  • Yes, it was a mural I did in our last studio and it took a couple of months. The thing about murals is that they’re big and you can’t put them away when they piss you off! They just stare at you until you get it right.

–Good point! And what was your shortest project?

  • I tend to knock out craft projects in a couple of hours but I also don’t intend to hang them on someone’s wall.

– What influences your creativity today? What is your inspiration?

  • What doesn’t inspire me? I figure I am taking in inspiration 24/7! Interaction with the environment is my inspiration.

–When do you prefer to work – at day or night hours?

  • I love working in the morning, when everyone is still asleep.

–Way to go!  And do you listen to music while working or you enjoy the creative process in silence?

  • For me music is as important as the medium, I listen to many different types of music because it enhances the experience of what I am creating.

– Are there any seasonal/holiday collections?

  • Not unless you count tree trimming!

– Does weather affect your artistic productivity?

  • Yes, when it’s sunny I want to be outside playing; not inside, working!

–Fantastic, and what would you like to say about today’s exhibition – are presented exponents parts of the same collection or each one is an individual piece?

  • They all have been made in the same time frame and I think there is a certain flow to them, but they do have enough power to stand alone.

– Are they assembled in a chronological order in which they were created?

  • Well, they have all been made in the last 2 years.

– Do you give your pieces a work-in-progress name? 

  • No, I do not title work anymore because I always come up with cornball titles. I figured if I just number a certain piece, people are able to take what they want from it.

– Is it true that no art project can be really finished?

  • I think there is always a good stopping point, and the artist should know when that is or the piece can become overworked.

–What do you like more – starting or finishing projects?

  • I love the first idea of a project when I start seeing the possibilities in my mind, but when it comes to the actual work I love the end result! It gets me every time!

–Would you share you plans for the nearest future?

  • No need to make plans at this point; I am in the moment and I am enjoying myself!

Michelle was smiling the entire time and still managed to greet new-comers or wave her hand to the friends. Most of the people stayed from the moment they came in till the end of the show. To make things even more exciting, it was decided that Michelle’s coworker and friend would perform on that day. Ester Kang and her band, Banty Hen, were playing live music by means of acoustic guitar, ukulele and a vintage-looking floor accordion. Ester’s deep, astute voice captured everybody’s attention.


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